The World Health Organisation’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity has found that globally, approximately 41 million children aged under five years are overweight or obese. A new report proposes a range of recommendations aimed at reversing the rising trend.
The Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO) completed their report on global childhood obesity, following a two-year process aimed at addressing increased levels of childhood obesity and overweight globally.
The report found that overweight prevalence among children aged under five years has risen from 4.8% to 6.1% between 1990 and 2014, with the number of children affected by obesity rising from 31 million to 41 million during that time.
An alarming rise in obesity levels was reported among children in lower middle-income countries, rising from 7.5 million to 15.5 million.
In 2014, 48% of all overweight and obese children aged under five lived in Asia and 25% in Africa. In Africa the number of overweight children aged under five has increased from 5.4 million to 10.3 million since 1990.
According to Commission co-chair, Dr Sania Nishtar: "Overweight and obesity impact on a child’s quality of life, as they face a wide range of barriers, including physical, psychological and health consequences. We know that obesity can impact on educational attainment too and this, combined with the likelihood that they will remain obese into adulthood, poses major health and economic consequences for them, their families and society as a whole."
Biological factors, inadequate access to healthy foods, a decline in physical activity in schools and the unregulated marketing of fattening foods are among the drivers of a worsening epidemic that requires a coordinated global response, the report said.
If not reversed, the report warned that “the obesity epidemic has the potential to negate many of the health benefits that have contributed to the increased life expectancy in the world”.
The ECHO Report has six main recommendations for tackling childhood obesity:
Promote intake of healthy foods
Implement comprehensive programmes that promote the intake of healthy foods and reduce the intake of unhealthy foods and sugar-sweetened beverages by children and adolescents.
Promote physical activity
Implement comprehensive programmes that promote physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviours in children and adolescents.
Preconception and pregnancy care
Integrate and strengthen guidance for the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with current guidance on preconception and antenatal care (to reduce risk of childhood obesity by preventing low or high birth weight, prematurity and other complications in pregnancy).
Early childhood diet and physical activity
Provide guidance on, and support for, healthy diet, sleep and physical activity in early childhood and promote healthy habits.
Health, nutrition and physical activity for school-age children
Implement comprehensive programmes that promote healthy school environments, health and nutrition literacy and physical activity among school-age children and adolescents.
Provide family-based, multi component, lifestyle weight management services for children and young people who are obese.
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